The Best Snacks to Fuel Your Workout

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A snack before a workout can delay hunger, provide fuel for your workout, and provide important daily nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Snacks are also important to keep blood glucose levels stable, which is especially important for diabetics and to assist with getting term life insurance with diabetes

An optimal pre-workout snack should contain nutrients like carbohydrates and protein but should have very little of other nutrients like fat and fiber. It is important to allow plenty of time for meals and snacks to be digested before exercising.

Snacks that are eaten three or four hours before a workout can include complex carbohydrates that are slower to digest like grains, cereals, pasta, brown rice, vegetables, or fruit. Snacks that are eaten 30 to 60 minutes before a workout should have quickly-digested simple carbohydrates like a sports drink, pretzels, applesauce, or fruit snacks. 

Avoid Too Much Fat and Fiber 

Stay away from snacks with too much fat and too much fiber. Fat and fiber take longer to be digested, can slow the digestive processes, and can lead to a feeling of fullness that might impede your workout. 

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel and source of energy so they are essential in pre-workout snacks. Protein is needed for muscle repair and rebuilding but is not used as readily for fuel.

However, a small amount of protein in a pre-workout snack can help jump-start the muscle recovery processes that occur after a workout. 

Fat also serves as fuel for workouts but does not need to be consumed pre-workout because we have fat stores in the body that can provide the necessary fuel.

Vitamins and minerals play a role in many body processes including energy metabolism, but a well-rounded diet will provide plenty of these.

Adequate hydration is always important before a workout. Make sure to include at least two or three cups of water in the hour leading up to your workout. 

Have Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are always great before a workout because they provide carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for good health. 

Some minerals serve as electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and chloride, which means they are important for fluid balance and is important for hydration. Antioxidants can help lessen the oxidative damage that happens as a result of exercise. 

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Grains and meats are a great source of B vitamins, which play a role in energy metabolism. Grains, meats, and beans have iron, which helps the body transport oxygen in red blood cells. 

Dairy provides protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are important for strong bones. 

Snacks to Eat 2-3 Hours before Exercising

Some snacks that would be appropriate two or three hours prior to a workout can take a little longer to digest and may be larger than a meal eaten closer to exercise. 

There are many different options that provide a variety of benefits for staying healthy before, during, and after physical exercise. 

Good Carbohydrates and Vitamins

  • A peanut butter and jelly sandwich with banana slices and low-fat milk is a good option with carbohydrates, protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D.
  • A yogurt parfait made with low-fat Greek yogurt, berries, and cereal is another good option because this snack has protein, carbohydrates, calcium, and a variety of vitamins.
  • Oatmeal with bananas is a healthy snack with carbohydrates, some fiber, potassium, and B-vitamins.

Good Carbohydrates and Protein

  • Chicken with brown rice and broccoli is a standard healthy meal but also has the nutrients to help fuel a workout. This option offers protein, B-vitamins and fiber, and other vitamins and minerals.
  • A veggie omelet with whole-grain toast and fruit salad has protein, carbohydrates, and many vitamins and minerals.
  • A lean turkey wrap with an apple contains carbohydrates for fuel and protein, which helps jump-start the muscle rebuilding processes that happen after a workout.
  • Low-fat chocolate milk is a great post-workout snack because it has the ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein, contains electrolytes, and has calcium and vitamin D.

Snacks to Eat One Hour before Exercising

Snacks that are eaten within 60 minutes before physical activity should be a smaller portion of food that can be easily digested. Some options for snacks that would be appropriate 30 to 90 minutes prior to a workout include a variety of foods.

Sports Drinks

Gatorade or Powerade are great choices if your workout is in less than 60 minutes. However, sports drinks do contain a lot of sugar and can be overconsumed. Be moderate with your intake, but remember they do provide carbohydrates for fuel and electrolytes for hydration. 

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Easily Digested Snacks

Simple carbohydrates such as crackers or pretzels are digested easily and provide quick energy. These are also tolerable for most individuals and will not cause an upset stomach. The sodium included is an electrolyte that helps with fluid balance. 

Squeezable applesauce or is a convenient option before a workout because it provides an easily digestible source of carbohydrates. Frozen grapes are another great choice as they are tasty, have a good amount of carbohydrates, and are easily digested.


Healthy Snacks are Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

As you can see, pre-workout snacks and meals are similar to the normal foods you should regularly eat for good health. The food you eat should provide carbohydrates for fuel, protein for muscle rebuilding, fiber for keeping regular, and vitamins and minerals for good health. 

You may wonder if you have to eat before a workout, especially if you work out first thing in the morning. Eating before a morning workout is a personal preference and depends on how your body tolerates the snack. 

If you notice that eating before a morning workout makes you feel full or sluggish, you may want to skip the morning snack and just focus on drinking water before your workout.

If you do not have a snack before a morning workout, make sure you have a sufficient dinner or bedtime snack to give you the fuel you need for the morning workout. 

On the other hand, if you find that you get hungry during the workout or notice a lack of energy, you would want to eat before you workout. Pay attention to how you feel and your performance to make the best decision. 

There are many benefits to eating healthy beyond just fueling workouts. Eating healthy is one habit that will change your health for the better.

 Healthy eating helps manage weight, reduces the risk for many chronic diseases, keeps your skin and hair healthy, boosts immunity, and keeps you feeling energized throughout the day.


Melissa Morris gives fitness and healthy living advice on the life insurance site,, and she has an MS in exercise science. She is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist and an ISSN-certified sports nutritionist.